LOCAL high school learners received a quick education on the skills required to plan and build a water distribution network during the fifth annual iGEMS water engineering competition.The South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL), together with SMEC, Labco and iGEMS, collaborated in hosting the competition, which was held at SANRAL’s Regional Training Laboratory on Monday, March 25.The learners from Port Elizabeth high schools were taught the importance of teamwork and how to brainstorm creative solutions using the theoretical and practical parts of civil engineering, in order to build infrastructure to provide clean water.“This competition is very practical, and it gives learners the opportunity to work in teams, with their hands and look at practical issues in the civil engineering sector,” said Tronel Strydom, professional technologist for SMEC, who judged the water competition. She further added that civil engineers understand that all communities deserve good reliable infrastructure.The 15 participating schools were Alexander Road High School, Douglas Mbopa High School, Cillié High School, Ethembeni High School, Hillside High School, Khwezi Lomso High School, Molly Blackburn High School, Newton Tech, Chapman High School, Sanctor High School, Uitenhage High, Daniel Pienaar High, Woolhope High, Lawson Brown High and Ndyebo High.The teams, consisting of Grades 11 and 12 learners, were required to build a water distributor to distribute three litre bottles equally between three points on a grid, making use of different connections and two different diameters.The learners were then judged according to a penalty point system. Ethembeni High’s Basetsana Malie, Douglas Mbopa’s Xhanti Qandana, Sanctor High’s Cursty Adams and Chapman High’s Matthew Human were the winning team.First prize winner, 18-year-old Malie, said her team started off not knowing what to do. “We told ourselves to enjoy the competition. We also considered each other’s opinions which helped us win the competition.”Second prize winner, Qandana, a 16-year-old Grade 11 learner, said, “At first I thought civil engineering was about building roads but now it has taught me that it also has to do with water affecting roads and how civil engineers would deal with such situations.”Human (16), a Grade 11 learner and third prize winner, said it was important to study civil engineering. “Civil engineering is important to build infrastructures to provide efficient ways for equal water transportation.”Mbulelo Peterson, SANRAL Southern Region’s manager, said, in addition to supporting the iGEMS Water competition, SANRAL promotes the importance of civil engineering. “By supporting this competition, we commit to the development of young aspiring civil engineers. “We also further promote the importance of civil engineering through supporting projects like the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) School of Engineering STEM Pipeline Project, bursary and scholarships and training civil engineering graduates in the SANRAL Southern Region’s Technical Excellence Academy,” said Peterson.